Apple's iPhone SE vs. iPhone 6s: Does price outweigh size?

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 2016
Featuring a 4-inch Retina display and starting price of $399, the newly unveiled Apple iPhone SE is noticeably smaller and cheaper than the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s. However, despite obvious differences in size, there are a great deal of similarities under the hood between the two. Here's a closer look at how well the iPhone SE competes with its big brother based on price, hardware and intended use.




tl;dr: The iPhone SE, while more like the 5s in design, offers similar hardware to that of the larger, more expensive 6s. However, there's no 128GB storage option, the phone features an old Touch ID sensor, and it's missing LTE Advanced, which ultimately warrants its lower $399 entry price. On the other hand, for those already used to a smaller screen and looking for a budget-friendly iPhone that can capture 4K video and take Live Photos, the SE may be the right fit.

Design and Size






Small pockets? Not a problem. Tired of one-handed typing? Two hands are fine. The iPhone SE's small size goes back to basics -- but does its resemblance to the 5s hurt its overall appeal?

If you're a fan of chamfered edges and a boxy appearance that dates back a few years, then no.

For those hoping for more visually appealing characteristics found in the 6s, the SE seems like a step backwards. To delve further into the size differences between the SE and 6s, the smaller SE weighs in at just under four ounces and is 7.6mm thick, while the 6s tips the scales at 5.04 ounces but is half a millimeter thinner at 7.1mm.

Color options are identical between the two devices - each is available in Silver, Space Gray, Gold and Rose Gold.

Processor



To gloss over the hardware similarities between the iPhone SE and 6s would be doing the SE a huge injustice. With a starting price of $399, which is 39 percent lower than the base 6s, the SE wins the affordability round.

But while the SE is more like the 5s from a design perspective, the hardware is very similar to that of the 6s. Both feature an A9 64-bit chip, which Apple states is twice as fast as the iPhone 5s in CPU performance and three times as fast in GPU capability. The embedded M9 motion coprocessor found in the A9 also allows for "Hey, Siri" functionality in both phones.

The iPhone SE is missing the 6s' barometer, which allows it to count the number of floors climbed with its step tracker, among other capabilities. That omission may prove frustrating for fitness and outdoor enthusiasts.

Overall, though, preliminary benchmarks do pin the SE right up there with the 6s in performance.

Display






As far as resolution goes, the SE's small, 4-inch display outputs at 1136x640, while the 6s has a larger 4.7-inch screen that runs at 1334x750.

Keep in mind, though, that while both devices have the same pixel density (326 pixels per inch), the SE has a far lower contrast ratio (800:1) compared to the 6s (1400:1).

Let's just say the $399 entry price helps make the SE's lack of screen real estate easier to bear, especially if you're looking to upgrade from a 5s. If you're already used to a bigger screen, it's tough to downsize.

Camera



Featuring the same 12-megapixel (MP) camera as the 6s, the iPhone SE seems like a clear winner in this category due the lower price point.

However, there's a big different between the two devices when it comes to the front-facing camera. The SE has an older 1.2MP front-facing camera, while the 6s comes with a higher resolution (5MP) version. The result? Crisper selfies when using an iPhone 6s.

Both smartphones do support Live Photos, however.

Storage



When it comes to storage options, the iPhone SE offers two capacities: 16GB and 64GB. The lack of a third 128GB option, which can only be found in the 6s and 6s Plus, definitely limits the SE's appeal.

If you back up photos and videos to the cloud regularly, sure, 64GB may be enough space. But for many, the lack of a 128GB option is a deal breaker and keeps sales of the 6s churning.

Touch ID



Another difference between the iPhone SE and 6s comes in the form of Touch ID. The SE utilizes the same first-generation Touch ID fingerprint sensor found in the 5s, while the 6s features a second-generation Touch ID sensor.

The difference between the two? Speed. On the bright side, the SE does support Apple Pay even with its first-gen Touch ID sensor.

Cellular Technology






No comparison between the iPhone SE and 6s is complete without going over differences in cellular technology. Plain and simple, the SE doesn't support LTE Advanced technology, which is at least three times as fast as regular LTE.

However, carriers haven't exactly rolled out LTE-A technology across the United States in a speedy manner, and many users can only utilize LTE-A in major cities using select carriers. The lack of LTE-A support does make the SE less future proof, but with Verizon already announcing plans to test 5G service, this could be a moot point depending on your geographic location.

Conclusion



The iPhone SE packs a lot of features into a device that's competitively priced.

Users looking to upgrade from a 5s shouldn't have nearly as much trouble handling the 4-inch screen as those who have grown accustomed to a larger display. The lack of LTE Advanced technology and a 128GB storage option aren't future proof, but if you're sticking to a budget, the SE is a great way to get into a iPhone without breaking the bank.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    I want maximum features in a phone-sized (3.5" or 4") iPhone and don't care about price (as long as it's less than $1000).  I wouldn't use a phablet-sized (4.5" or larger) iPhone if it were free without a contract.
    kevtdavebarnesSir_Turkeyrhinotuffbaconstanglecropt
  • Reply 2 of 32
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    The people that make decisions based on price on doing so without a single consideration for other factors. These are the "I don't want a smartphone at all if it costs me more than X dollars" people. So, many of those people today, tomorrow, next year....they will purchase the iPhone SE. And since the iPhone SE is such a great phone, it will create a positive experience for those buyers. And potentially creating future customers for something more advanced (and expensive).

    Every other buyer makes their iPhone decision based on size (with varying degrees of consideration for other factors).

    Then maybe 0.1% of buyers make their decision based on some other random factor.
  • Reply 3 of 32
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Yeah I don't get the "need" to "understand" this product. Its positively insane.

    Its the fucking 4" offering. Now, better than it was a week ago. End of discussion.
  • Reply 4 of 32
    kevtkevt Posts: 195member
    I doubt many will be weighing the price versus size question. Some will only be able to afford an SE. But for those who could buy either they'll know which is for them within minutes of holding and playing.  The 6 & 6S have proved popular, but I suspect there's still a lot of people like myself who think Apple got it right with their original 3.5" design, that 4" works - but no bigger (unless a slightly larger screen could be fitted into similar sized case by reducing bezels). 
    mcarlingfotoformatbaconstanglecropt
  • Reply 5 of 32
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,996member
    The battery is a big advantage of SE over 6S. 
  • Reply 6 of 32
    Sam123Sam123 Posts: 10member
    One of the most important comparisons was left out! 
    What about battery life ???
    baconstang
  • Reply 7 of 32
    Sam123Sam123 Posts: 10member
    sog35 said:
    For me the 4 inch screen is just way too small.

    I own a 5s and 6+ and I rarely use my 5s except for listening to podcast or music.

    I hope Apple makes a 5 inch phone. To me the 5.5 is too big and the 4.7 is too small.

    But what we really need to THREE top tier phones

    iPhone 7 Pro - 5.8 inch
    iPhone 7 -  5.0 inch
    iPhone 7m - 4.0 inch
    So the 5.5 inch is too big for you and you want Apple to make a bigger 5.8" model? Sounds logical!
    isteelersbaconstangsingularity
  • Reply 8 of 32
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member
    tzeshan said:
    The battery is a big advantage of SE over 6S. 
    Yes, and that's going to be a major consideration for some people, if the SE field tests as well as, or better than the 6s in day-to-day use.

    But comparing this phone strictly to the 6s is a mistake. The fact is, it's $250 dollars less than a 6s, but it's also still $150 less than the 6!!

    Putting that into consideration it's really going to make a difference to anyone who might be contemplating a $549 6, or who already owns one. In which case, here's the feature list differences:

    SE/6/6s - Phone Model
    $399/$549/$649 - 16GB price
    yes/no/yes -  gold and rose gold options
    no/no/yes - 128GB storage option
    no/no/yes - 3D Touch
    no/yes/yes - 1400:1 contrast
    no/yes/yes - dual domain pixels
    yes/no/yes - A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor
    no/no/yes - LTE Advanced
    no/no/yes - 2nd Generation Touch ID
    yes/no/yes - 12mp camera
    yes/no/yes - Live Photos
    yes/no/yes - improved camera features
    yes/no/yes - 4K video
    no/no/yes - 5mp FaceTime camera
    yes/no/yes - selfie flash
    no/yes/yes - auto HDR for videos
    yes/no/no - 13 hour battery internet/video usage 
    no/yes/yes - barometer

    Of the 17 potential differences between the models, there are 12 negative differences between the 6 & 6s, but only 8 negative differences between the SE & 6s. In fact, between the 6 & 6s, there are only 4 ways in which both phones are superior to the SE, while the SE is superior to the 6 in 7 different ways. And both the 6 and the 6s comes up short in battery life against the SE.

    So there's no denying the SE is a better value than the 6, unless screen real estate is customers primary concern. There's more to consider with the 6s, but screen real estate is still the primary motivation for an immediate purchase. Storage is likely the next big issue for some, and then the selfie obsessed probably come next. I'd be hard pressed to see someone turn their nose up over 3D Touch as a primary issue, nor any of the remaining issues. 

    Sir_Turkeyradarthekattimbitbaconstangsmack416bestkeptsecretredgeminipa
  • Reply 9 of 32
    mac_128 said:
    tzeshan said:
    The battery is a big advantage of SE over 6S. 
    Yes, and that's going to be a major consideration for some people, if the SE field tests as well as, or better than the 6s in day-to-day use.

    But comparing this phone strictly to the 6s is a mistake. The fact is, it's $250 dollars less than a 6s, but it's also still $150 less than the 6!!

    Putting that into consideration it's really going to make a difference to anyone who might be contemplating a $549 6, or who already owns one. In which case, here's the feature list differences:

    SE/6/6s - Phone Model
    $399/$549/$649 - 16GB price
    yes/no/yes -  gold and rose gold options
    no/no/yes - 128GB storage option
    no/no/yes - 3D Touch
    no/yes/yes - 1400:1 contrast
    no/yes/yes - dual domain pixels
    yes/no/yes - A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor
    no/no/yes - LTE Advanced
    no/no/yes - 2nd Generation Touch ID
    yes/no/yes - 12mp camera
    yes/no/yes - Live Photos
    yes/no/yes - improved camera features
    yes/no/yes - 4K video
    no/no/yes - 5mp FaceTime camera
    yes/no/yes - selfie flash
    no/yes/yes - auto HDR for videos
    yes/no/no - 13 hour battery internet/video usage 
    no/yes/yes - barometer

    Of the 17 potential differences between the models, there are 12 negative differences between the 6 & 6s, but only 8 negative differences between the SE & 6s. In fact, between the 6 & 6s, there are only 4 ways in which both phones are superior to the SE, while the SE is superior to the 6 in 7 different ways. And both the 6 and the 6s comes up short in battery life against the SE.

    So there's no denying the SE is a better value than the 6, unless screen real estate is customers primary concern. There's more to consider with the 6s, but screen real estate is still the primary motivation for an immediate purchase. Storage is likely the next big issue for some, and then the selfie obsessed probably come next. I'd be hard pressed to see someone turn their nose up over 3D Touch as a primary issue, nor any of the remaining issues. 

    Good analysis.  Howver, the points made in the earlier posts is that folks put a different weighting on each of these features
  • Reply 10 of 32
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,114moderator
    I like the 6 design.  It speaks to the precise engineering needed to deliver those seemless curved glass bezels flowing into the metal of the sides.  But, the SE is still a more captivating phone to look at.  If the 6 is a Porsche, then the SE is maybe a Ferrari.  Both are beautiful machines, but parked adjacent to one another, your eye will spend more time admiring the Ferrari. (Substitute your own favorite cars if your tastes differ, but the point remains intact.)
    king editor the gratepscooter63
  • Reply 11 of 32
    mcarling said:
    I want maximum features in a phone-sized (3.5" or 4") iPhone and don't care about price (as long as it's less than $1000).  I wouldn't use a phablet-sized (4.5" or larger) iPhone if it were free without a contract.
    Yeah what he said ! And make up for screen size savings by including an exclusive feature ! 
  • Reply 12 of 32
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,114moderator
    mac_128 said:
    tzeshan said:
    The battery is a big advantage of SE over 6S. 
    Yes, and that's going to be a major consideration for some people, if the SE field tests as well as, or better than the 6s in day-to-day use.

    But comparing this phone strictly to the 6s is a mistake. The fact is, it's $250 dollars less than a 6s, but it's also still $150 less than the 6!!

    Putting that into consideration it's really going to make a difference to anyone who might be contemplating a $549 6, or who already owns one. In which case, here's the feature list differences:

    SE/6/6s - Phone Model
    $399/$549/$649 - 16GB price
    yes/no/yes -  gold and rose gold options
    no/no/yes - 128GB storage option
    no/no/yes - 3D Touch
    no/yes/yes - 1400:1 contrast
    no/yes/yes - dual domain pixels
    yes/no/yes - A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor
    no/no/yes - LTE Advanced
    no/no/yes - 2nd Generation Touch ID
    yes/no/yes - 12mp camera
    yes/no/yes - Live Photos
    yes/no/yes - improved camera features
    yes/no/yes - 4K video
    no/no/yes - 5mp FaceTime camera
    yes/no/yes - selfie flash
    no/yes/yes - auto HDR for videos
    yes/no/no - 13 hour battery internet/video usage 
    no/yes/yes - barometer

    Of the 17 potential differences between the models, there are 12 negative differences between the 6 & 6s, but only 8 negative differences between the SE & 6s. In fact, between the 6 & 6s, there are only 4 ways in which both phones are superior to the SE, while the SE is superior to the 6 in 7 different ways. And both the 6 and the 6s comes up short in battery life against the SE.

    So there's no denying the SE is a better value than the 6, unless screen real estate is customers primary concern. There's more to consider with the 6s, but screen real estate is still the primary motivation for an immediate purchase. Storage is likely the next big issue for some, and then the selfie obsessed probably come next. I'd be hard pressed to see someone turn their nose up over 3D Touch as a primary issue, nor any of the remaining issues. 


    ---

    Your list, with so many yes/no/yes entries makes it pretty clear the 6/6+ are going away this September.  The new line-up will read yes/yes/yes more often, reducing the dimensions of comparison consumers need to weigh.  
    edited March 2016 Sir_Turkeybaconstang
  • Reply 13 of 32
    Have I missed something or has the the author omitted the defining feature of the 6s - 3D Touch?
  • Reply 14 of 32
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,996member
    mac_128 said:
    tzeshan said:
    The battery is a big advantage of SE over 6S. 
    Yes, and that's going to be a major consideration for some people, if the SE field tests as well as, or better than the 6s in day-to-day use.

    But comparing this phone strictly to the 6s is a mistake. The fact is, it's $250 dollars less than a 6s, but it's also still $150 less than the 6!!

    Putting that into consideration it's really going to make a difference to anyone who might be contemplating a $549 6, or who already owns one. In which case, here's the feature list differences:

    SE/6/6s - Phone Model
    $399/$549/$649 - 16GB price
    yes/no/yes -  gold and rose gold options
    no/no/yes - 128GB storage option
    no/no/yes - 3D Touch
    no/yes/yes - 1400:1 contrast
    no/yes/yes - dual domain pixels
    yes/no/yes - A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor
    no/no/yes - LTE Advanced
    no/no/yes - 2nd Generation Touch ID
    yes/no/yes - 12mp camera
    yes/no/yes - Live Photos
    yes/no/yes - improved camera features
    yes/no/yes - 4K video
    no/no/yes - 5mp FaceTime camera
    yes/no/yes - selfie flash
    no/yes/yes - auto HDR for videos
    yes/no/no - 13 hour battery internet/video usage 
    no/yes/yes - barometer

    Of the 17 potential differences between the models, there are 12 negative differences between the 6 & 6s, but only 8 negative differences between the SE & 6s. In fact, between the 6 & 6s, there are only 4 ways in which both phones are superior to the SE, while the SE is superior to the 6 in 7 different ways. And both the 6 and the 6s comes up short in battery life against the SE.

    So there's no denying the SE is a better value than the 6, unless screen real estate is customers primary concern. There's more to consider with the 6s, but screen real estate is still the primary motivation for an immediate purchase. Storage is likely the next big issue for some, and then the selfie obsessed probably come next. I'd be hard pressed to see someone turn their nose up over 3D Touch as a primary issue, nor any of the remaining issues. 

    You forgot to include the price difference which should be yes/no/no?  Also there is a RAM difference I think.  
  • Reply 15 of 32
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 645member
    iPhone 5-series looks more like a Dolorean, all hard edges and sharper image catalogue

    OG iPhone, maybe 3G series looks like your Bentley or whatever that was… iPhone 4-series is clearly a 911
  • Reply 16 of 32
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    sog35 said:
    Another reason why people would by the 6/6s over the SE is the design.
    Do you honestly believe the iPhone SE market knows/cares about the design or its age? You are unbelievably whacked.
    bobschlobbaconstangsingularity
  • Reply 17 of 32
    sog35 said:
    Another reason why people would by the 6/6s over the SE is the design.
    ...
    So with the SE you are getting a phone with a design that is over 5 years old.
    Single data point: my wife got a 6s late last year.  As someone who still loves his 4s (but is laying it aside about 40 hours from now), the physical design of the later models still is just not doing it for me.  I can't explain it, because my hands are relatively large.  It just doesn't feel... right.

    Still deeply in love with the glass and steel, weighty though it might be.

    On the other hand, I adapted to my heavier iPad Pro (from an Air 2) in less than a week.  Go figure.
    baconstang
  • Reply 18 of 32
    Sam123 said:
    sog35 said:
    For me the 4 inch screen is just way too small.

    I own a 5s and 6+ and I rarely use my 5s except for listening to podcast or music.

    I hope Apple makes a 5 inch phone. To me the 5.5 is too big and the 4.7 is too small.

    But what we really need to THREE top tier phones

    iPhone 7 Pro - 5.8 inch
    iPhone 7 -  5.0 inch
    iPhone 7m - 4.0 inch
    So the 5.5 inch is too big for you and you want Apple to make a bigger 5.8" model? Sounds logical!
    It is logical because the 5.8 model is supposed to be actually smaller in overall size then the 5.5 model due to a larger screen.
  • Reply 19 of 32
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member
    tzeshan said:
    mac_128 said:
    Yes, and that's going to be a major consideration for some people, if the SE field tests as well as, or better than the 6s in day-to-day use.

    But comparing this phone strictly to the 6s is a mistake. The fact is, it's $250 dollars less than a 6s, but it's also still $150 less than the 6!!

    Putting that into consideration it's really going to make a difference to anyone who might be contemplating a $549 6, or who already owns one. In which case, here's the feature list differences:

    SE/6/6s - Phone Model
    $399/$549/$649 - 16GB price
    yes/no/yes -  gold and rose gold options
    no/no/yes - 128GB storage option
    no/no/yes - 3D Touch
    no/yes/yes - 1400:1 contrast
    no/yes/yes - dual domain pixels
    yes/no/yes - A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor
    no/no/yes - LTE Advanced
    no/no/yes - 2nd Generation Touch ID
    yes/no/yes - 12mp camera
    yes/no/yes - Live Photos
    yes/no/yes - improved camera features
    yes/no/yes - 4K video
    no/no/yes - 5mp FaceTime camera
    yes/no/yes - selfie flash
    no/yes/yes - auto HDR for videos
    yes/no/no - 13 hour battery internet/video usage 
    no/yes/yes - barometer

    Of the 17 potential differences between the models, there are 12 negative differences between the 6 & 6s, but only 8 negative differences between the SE & 6s. In fact, between the 6 & 6s, there are only 4 ways in which both phones are superior to the SE, while the SE is superior to the 6 in 7 different ways. And both the 6 and the 6s comes up short in battery life against the SE.

    So there's no denying the SE is a better value than the 6, unless screen real estate is customers primary concern. There's more to consider with the 6s, but screen real estate is still the primary motivation for an immediate purchase. Storage is likely the next big issue for some, and then the selfie obsessed probably come next. I'd be hard pressed to see someone turn their nose up over 3D Touch as a primary issue, nor any of the remaining issues. 

    You forgot to include the price difference which should be yes/no/no?  Also there is a RAM difference I think.  
    RAM is 2GB in all three phones. Not sure what you mean about the price difference. 
  • Reply 20 of 32
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member

    mac_128 said:
    Yes, and that's going to be a major consideration for some people, if the SE field tests as well as, or better than the 6s in day-to-day use.

    But comparing this phone strictly to the 6s is a mistake. The fact is, it's $250 dollars less than a 6s, but it's also still $150 less than the 6!!

    Putting that into consideration it's really going to make a difference to anyone who might be contemplating a $549 6, or who already owns one. In which case, here's the feature list differences:

    SE/6/6s - Phone Model
    $399/$549/$649 - 16GB price
    yes/no/yes -  gold and rose gold options
    no/no/yes - 128GB storage option
    no/no/yes - 3D Touch
    no/yes/yes - 1400:1 contrast
    no/yes/yes - dual domain pixels
    yes/no/yes - A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor
    no/no/yes - LTE Advanced
    no/no/yes - 2nd Generation Touch ID
    yes/no/yes - 12mp camera
    yes/no/yes - Live Photos
    yes/no/yes - improved camera features
    yes/no/yes - 4K video
    no/no/yes - 5mp FaceTime camera
    yes/no/yes - selfie flash
    no/yes/yes - auto HDR for videos
    yes/no/no - 13 hour battery internet/video usage 
    no/yes/yes - barometer

    Of the 17 potential differences between the models, there are 12 negative differences between the 6 & 6s, but only 8 negative differences between the SE & 6s. In fact, between the 6 & 6s, there are only 4 ways in which both phones are superior to the SE, while the SE is superior to the 6 in 7 different ways. And both the 6 and the 6s comes up short in battery life against the SE.

    So there's no denying the SE is a better value than the 6, unless screen real estate is customers primary concern. There's more to consider with the 6s, but screen real estate is still the primary motivation for an immediate purchase. Storage is likely the next big issue for some, and then the selfie obsessed probably come next. I'd be hard pressed to see someone turn their nose up over 3D Touch as a primary issue, nor any of the remaining issues. 

    ---

    Your list, with so many yes/no/yes entries makes it pretty clear the 6/6+ are going away this September.  The new line-up will read yes/yes/yes more often, reducing the dimensions of comparison consumers need to weigh.  
    Nah, I still think the 6/6+ will be kept around to offer the largest possible phones for the lowest possible price to the Android crowd convert stragglers. It also allows them to drop the SE even further down to $299 after the 7 comes out, and the 6s drops $100 in price. I wouldn't be surprised to see a complete price restructuring that drops the 6 down to $399 and the 6+ to $499. 
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